While it is only February there has been the odd optimistic day of clear blue sky and the whiff of spring. It is almost impossible not to smile as you wander the streets (even if you do have to scowl a moment later at the excessive number of police in St Andrews this week in anticipation of the royal visit. But the less said on that the better – my opinions on it have already had me labelled as yet again “miserable” and – gasp – a socialist!). Running along West Sands, not in the rain or a blizzard but in the sunshine, you are reminded that the long, grim winter has to end and the inevitable sweet happiness which second semester has always held, will soon be here. But then it is night time, and it is dark and cold again and you are back in the library. And you just know it will be raining tomorrow. Do not even get me started on the dismal futures awaiting all those about to graduate, or the stories I keep hearing about on the news…. Tell me, then, other than the odd sunny day, is there really anything I should be smiling about? Maybe misery is actually perfectly justified, and happiness overrated.
You see, in “broken Britain”, which is further cracked and crushed with each additional cut, can we really expect to by happy? “Miserable, socialist” fourth years aside, is anyone ever really is happy?
Well, seemingly, this is what the upcoming ONS happiness survey is attempting to find out. David Cameron has claimed that measuring people’s feelings is a vital political issue, and if ,as Aristotle said, “happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” then it really isn’t a matter to be taken lightly. Consequently, in the next Integrated Household Survey, amongst other things, people will be asked “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?” and more specifically, “Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?” as well as the vaguely ominous “Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?” Perhaps these surveys should come with a warning plastered on their covers, for those who are already beginning to feel that their lives are in fact decidedly and dangerously worthless.
But these questions, though they may sound like it at times, don’t come from the cosy confines of a psychiatrist’s office – there is no Frasier Crane to answer “I’m listening”, rather an echoing silence in the political sphere. So David Cameron wants statistical proof of (un)happiness, very well, but what is he going to do about it once he has it? Of course, one must take into account the misguided myth of British stiff-upper lip, there will be countless people who will answer positively even if their insides are “festering” and “rotting” as they fill in the questionnaire. Still, I for one hope Cameron is not hoping for an overwhelmingly positive response. Fortunately it is widely assumed that happiness is not a case of having no problems in life, but rather how we deal with them. Consequently, we are all responsible for our own happiness; which does fit in rather nicely with his idea of the “Big Society”, where we help in order to help ourselves. He must be most perfectly happy about how everything is falling into place so splendidly under his government.